Representatives from 195 countries have gathered in the Polish city of Katowice for the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP24.
The conference, which is being held between December 2 and 15, will focus on producing a set of rules to flesh out details of the Paris climate accord, the landmark agreement signed in 2015 by all nations, bar Nicaragua and Syria, to battle climate change.
World leaders have been trying to breathe new life into the 195-nation agreement amid backsliding from several nations, most notably the United States, over commitments made when it was signed in December 2015.
This year’s COP gathering is considered the most important one since the member states signed the Paris Agreement, which will take effect in 2020, when the previous Kyoto Agreement is due to end.
According to the 2015 climate deal, countries will try to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Restricting the rise in temperature to 1.5C rather than 2C would mean that by 2100, sea levels would be 10cm lower, while the likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once a century rather than at least once a decade.
Coral reefs would also decline by between 70 and 90 percent instead of being virtually wiped out. For people, it would greatly reduce the risk of water shortages, food scarcity, and poverty related to climate change.
Experts have warned that global warming is on track to surpass three degrees by 2100 and have urged governments to do more than first planned to rein it in.
In a report released on Thursday, the World Meteorological Organization pointed out that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, and that “2018 is on course to be the fourth warmest year on record”.
“Increased emissions and lagging action mean the gap figure for this year’s report is larger than ever,” the report stated.
But over the last two years, several world leaders have responded critically to climate change, a theory agreed upon by the vast majority of the scientific community.
During the G20 conference in Argentina, US President Donald Trump, who pulled his country out of the Paris agreement in June 2017, clashed with other world leaders about climate change.
The US was the only G20 member which refused to back the global action on climate change, in which the rest of the G20 agreed to implement the “irreversible” Paris Agreement while respecting different paces of economic development.
Trump’s decision came a week after the US released its National Climate Assessment, which warned that natural disasters are worsening in the US because of global warming.
Responding to questions about the economic impacts of climate change, Trump said he doesn’t think they will be devastating.
“I don’t believe it,” he told reporters on Monday.
“I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine,” he said.
The president often falsely cites cold weather as proof global warming is not as bad as scientists say.
Scientists, however, are quick to point out that weather is a short-term event and climate science looks at weather patterns over an extended period of time.
Earlier this week, Brazil withdrew its offer to host the United Nations Climate Conference, the COP25, next year citing budget constraints and presidential transition.
Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who will assume office on January 1, had threatened to withdraw Brazil from the Paris climate accord.